BYU head coach Karen Lamb and the Cougars won't have to travel far for this week's matches at No. 14 Utah on Saturday and at UVSC on Tuesday. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- BYU will stick close to home for its next two matches, meeting up with No. 14 Utah on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Salt Lake City before heading down the road to face-off against the Utah Valley State College Wolverines Tuesday at 7 p.m. Both matches will be important for the Cougars to keep their Mountain West Conference championship hopes alive.
"We have to take everything one match at a time and get the win," said BYU head coach Karen Lamb. "Right now, it doesn't matter who we play, only that we know who we are and play like it."
The Cougars are coming off a very emotional five-game victory over the visiting Notre Dame Fighting Irish Wednesday night, a team that had swept the Utes the night before. The win required a Herculean effort from everyone on the team, proving that the Cougars are capable of winning in clutch situations.
At 11-8 overall and 4-3 in the MWC, this week will be crucial for BYU as the Cougars take on the conference's top team and then travel to UVSC hoping to avoid a letdown.
The Utes have dominated the rivalry lately, winning the last nine straight meetings, including a September matchup in Provo that ended with a four-game Utah victory. BYU swept UVSC in 2003, but will have to be prepared for a tough squad that has been steadily improving in just its second year of Division I qualification.
Several BYU players will be counted on to help lift the Cougars to victory. Lindsy Hartsock, the nation's top blocker after a 12-block effort against Notre Dame, will be key for BYU as will setter Lauren Richards, who has recorded double-doubles in the last three consecutive matches. Several Cougars matched milestones in the Notre Dame victory as Erica Lott and Lexi Brown each tied their season-highs in kills with 19 and 16 respectively, Richards tied her season-highs with 62 assists and 14 digs and Hartsock's 12 blocks tied her career-high.
"The only acceptable outcome for us against Notre dame was a win and we got it," Lamb said. "That's the kind of resolve we will have to have for every other match we play. We have to go out there and get the job done every time. That's our goal."
Fans can find a link to live video for the Utah match by going to the schedule page of the BYU Women's Volleyball homepage at http://www.byucougars.com/volleyball_w/.
Here's a look at the teams the Cougars will face this week:
At 15-3 overall and 7-0 in the Mountain West Conference, the No. 14 Utes are the team to beat this season. They have before a surprising sweep by visiting Notre Dame Tuesday night, the Utes had won 12 straight matches, including seven at home and wins over No. 7 Colorado State, No. 12 UCLA and No. 15 Saint Mary's.
The Utes currently lead the MWC in opponent hitting percentage (.135) and blocks per game (3,38), taking over the top spot in both categories from the Cougars last weekend. Utah is also ranked eighth in the nation in blocks per game, just ahead of the Cougars. Middle blocker Lyndsey Henderson is tied with BYU's Lindsy Hartsock at the third spot nationally in blocks per game with 1.78.
BYU has dropped the last nine straight matches to the Utes dating all the way back to the 2001 season. However, the Cougars still hold a commanding 61-16 overall series advantage.
In just their second year of Division I qualification, the Wolverines are 8-9 in 2004, having played 15 of their first 17 matches on the road. UVSC also participated in BYU's Mizuno Classic in September, going 2-1 with wins against Central Florida and Memphis and a loss versus Oklahoma.
The Wolverines are led by Deise Borghetti, a two-time Division I Independent Player of the Week award winner who averages 4.27 kills per game. Setter Lacee Koelliker averages 10.82 assists per game and has been named the Division I Independent Setter of the Week twice.